By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Cologne, Germany – You can count Portland Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups among fans of national team play. And not just because his big guy Jusuf Nurkic is currently participating in EuroBasket with Bosnia and Herzegovina or because of his fond memories of winning the gold medal with Team USA in the 2010 World Championship.
“I love to see guys go play on their national teams,” Billups told Eurohoops from Cologne, Germany where he currently is to see Nurkic leading Bosnia. “Because you’re playing the right way. You’re playing with a purpose and obviously because of that experience you’ll be in shape.”
Billups doesn’t subscribe to the idea that players should focus only on practicing and conditioning during the offseason while skipping opportunities to engage in this kind of competition or any competition that truly challenges them.
It’s far more than “let hoopers hoop” for Billups, which is something that Billups totally gets anyway as a former hooper himself. He doesn’t just allow his players to play in summer, he wants to them to play. Speaking of the EuroBasket, he believes that this type of international tournament during the offseason provides an excellent chance for players – the “Bosnian Beast” in this case – to engage in high-level, meaningful action that will be far more beneficial and impactful than practicing.
“I like when players just play,” Billups said to Eurohoops. “A lot of guys, they just work out in the summertime. Get a personal trainer and just work out on the court. That’s OK. I rather get play. Even the guys that aren’t here in the EuroBasket, I want them home playing against really good players and really good talent.”
Back when he was a player, Billups, an NBA champion and Finals MVP with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, wasn’t really familiar with European basketball. Now as a coach, he doesn’t only pays attention to it but also gets inspired by it.
“So and so,” Billups said when asked if he watched European basketball as a player. “Obviously I played a lot with USA Basketball. One of my best experiences was in 2010 during the World Championship in” Istanbul. We won the gold medal. We played against good teams. I really like watching it right now as a coach. I learn so many different plays, so many different actions. It’s just a great game.”
Billups will be getting a strong taste of some of the best that EuroBasket has to offer as a spectator of Group B games in Cologne. He’ll say that he watch the next two matches of Bosnia and then he’ll return to Portland.
Group B is widely described as the “Group of Death” due to the presence of reigning champion Slovenia, gold medal favorite and 2021 Olympic Games silver medalist France, perennial medal contender Lithuania, and tough hosts Germany. And these teams feature players such as Luka Doncic, Domantas Sabonis, Dennis Schroder, Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, and Goran Dragic, among others.
“So many European players in our league now in the NBA and they take a lot of pride coming home to their country,” Billups told reporters. “Playing for their country. It’s good to see so many guys here.”
And one of them is Nurkic. “I came here to support my guy, the Bosnian Beast. I’m happy to be here.”